CSC 106: Intro to CS
Can Computers Think?


Instructor: Prof. Chris Fernandes
When & where we meet: MWF 10:30-11:35 and Thurs 10:55-12:40 in Olin 107
Office Hours: Mon & Wed 1-4, Tues 2-3, and Fri 11:45-12:30
or anytime my door's open!
Office: 220 Steinmetz Hall
Phone: 388-6401
Course Webpage:

Text (1 required). Available at the Bookstore:

Tony Gaddis, Starting Out with Python, 3rd ed, Pearson, 2015, ISBN: 978-0-13-358273-4

Course Summary

CSC 106 is an introductory course in computer science, focusing on the theme of artificial intelligence (AI). If you've ever wondered how computers are able to perform "intelligent" tasks, this course will show you how the magic works.

At its core, this course is about how computer scientists think about and solve problems. So if you're thinking about a CS major or minor, this will give you a solid foundation. If you're a neuroscience major, this course will help you see how scientists are using biological and neurological principles to model "behavior" in computers. It's also a foundation for the computational track in neuroscience. And if you're here just because you're curious, well, that's great since AI is cool!

By the end of the course, you should be proficient in the following:

We will cover the following topics (at minimum):


None! Well, there is one: a desire to work, learn, and get involved! No previous computer programming experience is required.


You will need one bit of hardware: a USB flash drive (thumb drive) that you can store your work on. Please bring it to class every day. They are available in most stores, including our own bookstore.

In class, you are required to use our lab computers. However, when working on your projects outside of class, you have a choice. If you'd like to continue using our labs, feel free! We have three spaces that you can use:

All of these labs are available to you 24/7 using your ID card, except when classes are being held in them. If you'd rather work on your own computer, that's ok too, but you'll need to install some software:

The software is free and has versions for Windows, Mac, and Linux.



Note that you must get a C- or better in this course in order to take any other course that requires an Introductory CS course as a prerequisite.

Academic Dishonesty

Struggling on your own to figure out what to type next is where a lot of the learning happens in CS. Give yourself the opportunity to do this -- ALONE. Here are some specific things to avoid (this is not a complete list):

Ok, so what should you do? Here are some tips:

You're going to write and see a lot of code in this class. A good question is: what sources can you legally take code from for your projects?

It is ok to reuse code...

It is NOT ok to reuse code...

Here's the bottom line: except for the above, you have to write all the code yourself, from scratch. In all cases, you must explicitly cite any source (like a web page tutorial or a helpdesk person) that you use to help complete an assignment. Again, this is similar to writing an English paper; if you use a quote or material from someone else, you have to give credit where credit is due. Otherwise you are inappropriately plagiarizing or borrowing ideas. You do not have to cite help from me.

We have an honorcode now and I'm trusting y'all to follow it. Read up on it at All suspected violations will be reported to the Honor Council chair and Dean of Studies.

What you need to do

To prepare for class, you are required to do the following:


Union College facilitates the implementation of reasonable accommodations, including resources and services, for students with disabilities, chronic medical conditions and temporary disabilities resulting in difficulties accessing learning opportunities. All students needing services must first register with Accommodative Services located in Reamer 303. It is strongly recommended that accommodations be requested within the first two weeks of the term. Last minute requests can be denied. Any student with a documented learning disorder is welcome to come talk to me privately about options for completion of exams and homework assignments.

The Bottom Line

Ask questions and seek help. This is the most important point of all. I live to answer questions. Don't be afraid to come to my office every single day if you want. It's better for everybody (you AND me) if you understand things sooner rather than later. More often than not, there's a line of people waiting to see me on the day before a project is due. You'll get the help you need faster by starting on projects sooner rather than waiting until the last minute.